Superintendent's Corner: February 2023
Superintendent’s Corner for February 2023
The state of Oklahoma recently selected a new State School Superintendent, Ryan Walters. Mr. Walters routinely states in open interviews and released public statements that Oklahoma will have the most comprehensive “School Choice” program in the nation. I would like to address his comments briefly.
First of all, school choice is alive and well. A student can live anywhere he/she wants and as long as another school district will take them, the student can attend the school of his or her local choice. We see this in everyday life. Just about all of us know of at least one student who is attending school outside of the district they presently reside. As students attend a school they get counted on that school’s daily attendance records, therefore, notifying the state that funds for that student will go to the district he/she is attending. One of the main points you may hear from Mr. Walters, is that money should go with the student. You need to know the funds do travel with the student already under the current system. From my standpoint, Mr. Walters is trying to receive credit for something that is already in place. When you read and hear him talking about school choice and money following students-just know those ideas are in motion and were in motion prior to his taking over.
One idea that I believe he is trying to pursue with the concept of money “following” students is that he wants students to take taxpayer public funds and allow students to attend private schools. He can’t do this as the use of taxpayer funds is regulated. Private schools are largely unregulated. Private schools are not required to follow the same academic and performance standards as public schools. Private school staff members are largely uncertified people who often only work part-time. If public dollars are going to go to private schools, they must adhere to the same rules and regulations as public schools. The general public must also have some say in how the school uses the funds.
The school voucher idea is continuously pursued by legislators in hopes of reducing the amount of funds used for public education. If we have fewer students in the public school system, we need fewer people to teach school. We need fewer administrators. The need for support staff is reduced. The reduction of overall employees means the state is having to pay less insurance, they are having to pay less towards retirement systems, etc. Less money is needed to support building maintenance and operations. So, ultimately, the state is really not overly concerned about our young people going to school, they want the funds freed up to use for different needs.
Though the idea of vouchers continuously arises, legislators have repeatedly voted against them as they do not agree with public funds going toward private institutions. Common sense typically prevails. I anticipate the same will hold true with the current year’s push for vouchers. Should the need to protest intensify I will keep you posted. In the meantime, as you see information regarding vouchers on the news and social media, just know that 90% of what is being reported is likely not 100% correct and is being used to increase viewer ratings and contacts. The bottom line is the state will have to continue to provide a method for students to be educated so regardless of what politicians do, kids will still go to school. Let me know if you have any questions regarding school vouchers or anything else related to our school.